Offering Representation—One Story

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Last week I picked up the phone and made an offer of representation to an author. I won’t tell you who it is because she is a regular member of our blog community, and it’s up to her how and when she shares this news, but I thought I’d write a little bit about the process.

Step One: This author first came to my attention through her Books & Such blog comments. I began to recognize her name and I liked her from the start.

Step Two–9/19/2012: She sent an outstanding query to the correct email ([email protected]) with the subject line: “Query for Wendy”– how we love writers who follow our guidelines. Yes, there is always room for grace, but this query was perfect. It made me want to read the book, and it gave me all the important information. Plus it was sent through our regular query system. Note: Following directions always endears you to an agent.

Step Three–9/20/2012: Our beloved first readers forwarded the email on to me. Note: It doesn’t always happen this quickly. It can take a week or more for the first readers to process a query.

Step Four– 9/20/2012: I opened the email, read the query and knew I wanted to see more. I sent a one-line email saying: “I’d like to take a look at your book. Can you send the proposal and three chapters to me (as attachments) at this address?” Note: It almost never happens this quickly. I had a segment of time open up right then to read, get excited and reply.

Step Five– 9/20/2012: The author sent the proposal and first three chapters immediately. Note: We do not expect authors to be sitting by the computer waiting to send the proposal. It almost never happens this quickly.

Step Six– 9/20/2012: Still working within that open block of time–which almost never happens–I read the proposal and chapters and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the manuscript. I wrote: “So far, so very enchanting. I love the promise of a miracle–the magical realism. Plus the characters are well drawn. Will you send me the whole manuscript?”

Step Seven– 9/20/2012: Author sends whole manuscript.

Step Eight–Six weeks later: Author sends a nudge: “I have my calendar marked to check in with you on my manuscript this week. I hope you’ve had a chance to give it a look, but thanks to Facebook and your blog I understand if you haven’t! <snip details> I’ll look forward to hearing from you when the time is right.” Note: A nudge is always appropriate. Things get crazy and though I was dying to read this manuscript, pressing things edged in ahead of it. This nudge reminded me how much I wanted to read the rest of the story. I made a reminder to myself to get to this manuscript.

Step Nine– 11/18/2012: Halfway through the book I stopped to drop the author a note: “I started reading your manuscript this weekend. I’m more than halfway through. I should have waited until I’m completely done, but I love this book. It reminds me of [book name] and [book name]— two of my favorites. Since I’m having trouble putting it down, I’ll probably be back to you in a few days, but I just had to stop and tell you how much I am enjoying your work.”

Step Ten– 11/20/2012: I tried to call the writer, but she was not at home. (Who calls during Thanksgiving Week?) I sent an email: “I called but missed you. I finished reading the book. What a beautiful story. I laughed and I cried. I feel so blessed by your writing and for getting to see the world through your eyes. I’d like very much to offer representation if you are still open to it. As I was reading, I kept thinking of editors I wanted to share this with–a sure sign for me that I want to represent you.”

The writer called back a few hours later, just before she was to head out for Thanksgiving. She had a number of questions for me. (She was prepared.) I must have answered them correctly because she accepted my offer.

Note: It never happens the same way twice. As you can see from the timing, much of this had to do with my receiving the query on a day that had unexpectedly offered an open block of time. (Makes you wonder who orchestrates these happenstances.) I know I have some proposals and manuscripts that have been languishing longer than this but discovering treasure often occurs out of order.

We talk so much about the tough odds, I just thought it might be fun to highlight the up side for a change. Does this raise any questions about the process for you? Ask away!


147 Responses

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  1. Eva Ulian says:

    It felt like going to a party on this blog today! I’m envious!!!! :-)

  2. What an encouraging post for a dreary November day.
    I liked how you kept saying it almost never happens this way. It’s good to know dreams do come true in God’s timing.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. jeffp says:

    Sweet. An aspiring author’s dream come true. People do win the lottery. Others earn their fate.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Exactly. There’s nothing you can do to impact your chance of winning the lottery, but your road to publication is entirely dependent on what you do.

  4. Judith Robl says:

    What an encouraging post! I’ve not been through all the comments, but if you and the author will just share title and publication date (when they are available) I’ll bet there will be a run on the book.

    Meticulous attention to following directions is always good. I have the feeling the author is just as meticulous about the writing.

    This post made me want to throw confetti, release balloons, and shout across the hills. Congratulations to the author. And to you, Wendy.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      It’s been interesting to me to see much everyone appreciated seeing my excitement over the book. Here’s a secret: We are that excited over each client we sign. I could have written an equally strong respeonse to each client. We have so many opportunities to sign good, solid books– way more than we could ever fit into our list, so we look for the great, the outstanding books/authors.

      With one of my clients I was a huge fan of her writing long before I began representing her. I stood waiting for her one-book-a-year along with all her other fans. I just finished reading another client’s Christmas manuscript. It was all I could talk about. (Fabulous!) So this author is going to fit right in.

      Can you imagine how hard it would be for to sell these books if I wasn’t crazy about them? “Um, I have a good, solid romance here. . .”

      Editors are the same way. They get so passionate about books.

  5. Selena Fulton says:

    What a wonderful, inspiring story. I wish I could say I was the author. Perhaps they haven’t stopped celebrating yet?

    Congratulations to the both of you!

  6. Sarah Thomas says:
  7. Woo Hoo! I am smiling from ear to ear! Wendy, thank you for sharing the 10 step story. I love watching how God works. I’m especially excited because I happen to know and adore the author. Sarah, I say it’s time we get together and celebrate once again! Yay God! Yay Wendy! Yay Sarah!

  8. Yay!!! I knew who it was before she chimed in! Congratulations, “new client” and Wendy! Hugs all around!!! (Can we please use the exclamation points in this case?) :)

  9. Amanda Socci says:

    This was a terrific story, so beautifully laid out. I love how you mentioned about “Who orchestrates these things.” Well, I think we all know exactly WHO was responsible for Sarah’s success…

    Many congrats to Sarah!

  10. Wonderful account! I congratulate Sarah here, as I did on her site.

    Blessings to all.

  11. Larry says:


    And good job on everyone who knew keeping the secret! Finally you can openly share the joy with everyone that you feel for Sarah.

    Also, congrats on the new people joining in on the community here. It sorta reminds me of a neighborhood block party: we’re celebrating Sarah and Wendy, while also meeting new neighbors who live around these parts, but haven’t got to meet yet.

    I do believe Jennifer has welcoming chocolates, and since it’s a little bit in the morning as I type, I might have a stack of bacon pancakes whipped up shortly. :)

  12. Kimberly says:

    I absolutely love your enthusiasm, Wendy:) It’s encouraging to know that agents and editors get as excited about our manuscripts as we do! And a huge congrats to Sarah! I’m heading over to read her post now.

  13. Lori says:

    I got the right first name but the wrong last name. Congradulations Sarah Thomas!!

  14. Diane Yuhas says:

    I’d like to read another story of offering representation, but one more in keeping with “this is how it usually happens.” I love the way this story turned out, but I want to keep my feet on solid ground. Congratulations to the newly represented!

  15. Heather says:

    I love this story! Thank you for sharing the various steps with us. (I clicked over from the author’s site and I am thrilled for her!) It sounds like you two are a great match. Yay!

  16. Heather says:

    I forgot to say that I am bookmarking for future reference Sarah’s “nudge” language because it is such a nice, non-obnoxious way to check in.

  17. Great story and Wendy, you’ve given us an authentic insight. Thank you. Sarah, yes, God’s timing is stellar.

  18. Leia Brown says:

    This was such an encouraging post! Congrats to Sarah! But it did raise a question for me here in newbie land. You asked for Sarah’s proposal, and she immediately sent it, which meant she had her marketing plan all ready to go. So, then, before a wanna-be writer even has a nibble from an agent, much less a whiff of an actual offer, is she to be contacting radio stations, book stores, etc. asking them to promote her book? I assumed a writer would do that when an agent had already expressed interest in her book – after the query, before the proposal. Isn’t it awkward to do it when there are no concrete indications that the book might be published?

  19. Such a delight to read!! You’re right, it’s nice to hear upbeat stories and to dream of the day when perhaps I can share my own. Congrats to the author!!

  20. I guessed right!! Go Sarah Thomas! Congrats! Woohoo! :)

  21. Katie DePoppe says:

    I’ve been following the blog for quite a while and have never commented, but I feel compelled to tell Sarah I cannot WAIT to read your work! Congratulations! Thanks for the fantastic post, Wendy.